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Research in Higher Education

, Volume 48, Issue 8, pp 993–1020 | Cite as

A new context for understanding civic responsibility: Relating Culture to Action at a Research University

  • Courtney H. Thornton
  • Audrey J. Jaeger
Article

Civic responsibility as an ideal of higher education is rarely considered through a cultural and theoretical lens. Swidler’s (1986, American Sociological Review, 51: 273–286) framework linking ideology, culture and action was used in this ethnographic study of a research university (a) to understand dominant institutional beliefs about civic responsibility and (b) to understand how institutional culture contributes to a unique approach to civic responsibility. This study examined campus ideologies and cultural forms that addressed five dimensions of civic responsibility: (a) knowledge and support of democratic values, systems and processes, (b) desire to act beneficially in community and for its members, (c) use of knowledge and skills for societal benefit, (d) appreciation for and interest in those unlike oneself, and (e) personal accountability. The “role model” approach emerged as a unique institutional approach to civic responsibility and aligned with Swidler’s framework. Findings are significant for both organization studies and student development research.

Keywords

civic responsibility research university UNC–Chapel Hill organizational culture ethnographic research 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.North Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA

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